The Walking Dead started off this season on the happiest note I have seen on the show in a while. It was nothing but smiles, hugs, kisses, and old friends being reunited with one another. And honestly, it was a refreshing break from all the horribleness in the previous seasons.
It was also rather awful to watch, since by the very nature of the show, we could tell that something completely heartbreaking and/or bloody would happen to at least one of the characters in the near future to ruin the moment. And The Walking Dead did not leave us waiting long. Only two episodes later, a couple survivors from Terminus ambushed our group, knocked one of them out, and kidnapped him. And it was all downhill from there.
Trigger warning for mentions of rape and sexual abuse.
Our kidnapped character was Bob, and as he comes to, he realizes that the Terminus people have cut off his leg, cooked it, and are eating it in front of him. However, it seems that Bob wasn’t long for the world regardless, as he reveals that in the previous episode he suffered a walker bite and that the Terminus people are eating “tainted meat”. Until this point we all suspected that the people from Terminus were cannibals, but this episode is what confirmed it, and it was one of the more gruesome things I’ve seen on the show.
The Walking Dead wasted no time in having a showdown between our Terminus Survivors and Atlanta Survivors, where our heroes came out on top like they always do (Rick beats the Terminus leader’s head in with a machete). With the Terminus situation out of the way, the episode went back to something the season has been spending a lot of time on: Beth.
We discover that Beth’s kidnappers are a bunch of corrupt cops holed up in a hospital. The cops attack people—sometimes hitting them with cars—take them back to the hospital, treat them, and then claim they own the police a debt that they need to work off. Unfortunately, the nature of the debt makes it impossible, and Beth and the other patients and wards are little more than prisoners and slaves to the abusive cops. The one cop even rapes one of the wards, and later he and another cop laugh about it. That same cop also sexually harasses Beth on multiple occasions. Beth and fellow ward Noah conspire together to escape, but only Noah makes it out of the hospital.
Eventually, the hospital captures Carol, and our Atlanta Survivors learn about the situation from Noah. They in turn kidnap two cops and propose an equal trade. The hospital arc comes to its conclusion in the midseason finale “Coda”, where during the trade both Beth and the head cop Dawn are killed.
My first thought upon seeing the midseason finale was “Holy fuck, Beth died! But I liked Beth!” I’m a little disappointed to see her go, though not overly surprised by it. The show had been leading up to her death for a while. Hell, Beth even told us last season that she knew she would die someday and that she was at peace with that. In fact, out of all the characters, the two who died this season—Beth and Bob—were both more accepting of death than any of the others and capable of seeing the brighter side to bad situations. Bob was such an optimist that he and Sasha made a game out of his optimism—she would state something bad, and he would tell her something good about it. Though Bob eventually died in Sasha’s arms after the fight with the Terminus Survivors and his final moments were happy and peaceful, Beth’s death was much more sudden and shocking.
Both these characters were interesting in their own right, as they both had a bunch of shit in their pasts that they had to overcome. Bob was the sole survivor of numerous camps that walkers eventually overran, and we got to watch Beth pull through a suicidal stage, and become stronger as a result. It’s sad to see them both gone.
This season so far was also a little uncomfortable. This is hardly the first time The Walking Dead has delved into issues such as imprisonment and sexual assault, but thus far this season was about corrupt cops abusing the power they held over other people. It was also uncomfortable because Noah and the ward who was raped are both people of color. Given recent events, I’m not sure how I feel about this. This is a very touchy subject right now that deserves justice—The Walking Dead didn’t do a bad job handling this issue by any means—and it’s nice to see a show actively acknowledge the abuse that goes on in law enforcement. Dawn and all the other cops, who are mostly white, even go so far to refer to the wards as their property, saying that they have claims on them. During the exchanging of prisoners with Rick, Dawn even demands Noah be returned to her, because Rick “has no claim on him”. The Walking Dead, in true Walking Dead fashion, did not sugarcoat this issue at all, and it ends up having a lot of bad consequences. Thankfully, since all these scenes are presented from the victims’ perspective, never at any point does the show excuse the cops’ actions. They are clearly in the wrong regardless of the reasons they think excuse their actions, and it is Beth, Noah, and the other wards we are meant to relate to.
Not only does Dawn treat Noah like a slave and even has him beaten at one point, she’s also aware that the other cops actively abuse their wards and does nothing to stop it, because the wards “aren’t strong” and the system they have “works”. This leads the rape victim to commit suicide in Dawn’s office. Afterward, Beth kills one of the cops when he sexually assaults her as well. All the while, Dawn continuously victim blames and thinks that weak people like the wards shouldn’t get in the way of strong people and their desires. The whole arc was incredibly difficult to watch.
We also find out this season that our scientist character Eugene lied about curing the walkers. He had no skills to survive and so he tricked the other characters into thinking that he was an important scientist so they would protect him. This naturally leads to a lot of upset people, and Abraham even attempts to beat Eugene to death. Maggie, Glenn, and Tara save Eugene’s life, and though they are clearly upset about being tricked and disappointed that there’s no cure, it was nice that they still saved Eugene and aren’t holding it against him that much. As Tara tells us, Eugene is all but useless and would likely not survive on his own, so she’s not going to blame him for using the one skill he does have.
Now that everyone knows the truth, this also means that our midseason ends with our characters having no set destination. Before this, they were at the prison and warring with the Governor. Following that, they had Terminus. Washington was their next goal. It’s possible that our characters will still attempt to head there, since as Eugene puts it, they’ll probably have a better chance of surviving in Washington than Atlanta.
Overall, I really grew to love Beth this season, and now that she’s gone, her sister Maggie is going to have to come to terms with the fact that everyone in her family is now dead. Only she, Beth, and their father survived the second season, and now she has no one left. I look forward to watching her struggle, and I also look forward to seeing how the other characters, specifically Daryl, who had grown very attached to Beth, deal with this loss. Now that Carol’s back, both she and Daryl have had some really good moments together, where we got to watch Carol continue to struggle with her own guilt over murdering two people in Season 4. So I really look forward to seeing more of them in future episodes. At this point in time, I am invested in just about every character but Rick and Abraham. As Rick is the main character, I’m never concerned for his wellbeing and he’s almost always surrounded by more interesting diverse characters. As for Abraham, he is the typical tough, military man cliché with a dark past and manpain and that’s not really a character type I’m interested in seeing more of. When this season returns, I would like to see more of just about every character but Rick and Abraham. The Walking Dead has an incredibly diverse cast—numerous characters of color, an openly queer character, and I suspect Eugene may be on the autism spectrum. For me, right now, the diverse cast is The Walking Dead’s greatest asset, and I look forward to seeing where those characters go next.